Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Ashby Kinch

Commitee Members

Eric Reimer, Paul Dietrich


Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, The Passion of Pelagius, The Song of Roland, The King of Tars, Al-Andalus, Contact literature


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Literature in English, British Isles | Medieval Studies


Hrotsvit of Gandersheim’s The Passion of Pelagius and The Song of Roland have never been read together in terms of their shared engagement with the Muslim other in the Iberian Peninsula, known during the Middle Ages as Al-Andalus. This project is a comparative reading of the texts’ approach to the presentation of an imaginary Al-Andalus as a space of alterity. The texts’ emphasis on imaginative as opposed to accurate portrayals of Andalusian history and Islamic culture suggests their engagement with a process of Christian identity-building, where the “Christian,” as portrayed in each text, is defined against and in comparison to the “Muslim,” as imagined. As such, this thesis examines the way the texts present the imaginary Al-Andalus as a staging area in which to interrogate both difference and an ideal Christian identity. The texts employ the space of alterity as one to define the Christian “self” in opposition to the Muslim “other;” however, in this space of alterity, the Christian must also confront the other’s likeness to the self. By employing existing scholarship on cloistered women’s communities and hagiography, this project argues that The Passion of Pelagius implicitly embraces the position of the female religious other even as it explicitly demonizes the figure of the Muslim other. The Song of Roland, meanwhile, reflects traditions of epic literature and chivalry to express ambivalence about the difference between Muslim and Frank, especially in terms of the poem’s vivid battle scenes.



© Copyright 2017 Briana J. Wipf